London could have own NFL Wembley franchise by 2020
Jacksonville Jaguars look most likely team to relocate as stadium boss dismisses pitch fears
LONDON could have its own NFL franchise, based at Wembley, by 2020 according to the American football league and the stadium's managing director.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's London clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings, the first of two regular season NFL games at Wembley this year, stadium boss Roger Maslin said he was "absolutely confident" the venue could become the permanent home to an American football team without undermining its role as the England football team's ground.
He said football remained the stadium's "priority" but that would not stop the stadium hosting as many as eight regular season NFL games each year. Maslin also said that he was keen for Wembley to host the Super Bowl if it were ever to be held outside the US.
There has been a regular season NFL game at Wembley every year since 2007. This year the stadium will host two, and there are plans for Wembley to stage three matches in 2014.
"The spectacular success of the NFL's decision to allow matches to be played in London has led to calls for the city to host its own permanent franchise," reports the Daily Telegraph. The NFL's UK managing director Alastair Kirkwood told the paper: "It's possible that it could be done before the end of the decade."
The paper adds: "Having signed a four-year deal to play one home game in London until 2016, the [Jacksonville] Jaguars look the most likely candidate to move – particularly after owner Shahid Khan bought Premier League club Fulham."
Concerns about how American football matches would affect the pitch were dismissed by Maslin. "[He] insisted Sunday's match would leave no mark on the playing surface ahead of England's decisive World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland next month, and nor would it be an issue should American football be played every second week during the season," reports The Independent. ·